Dendrobatids are a group of beautifully coloured frogs with patterns on their skin for warning off potential predators.

Many species secrete varying amounts of toxins through their skin. These amphibians are commonly known as dart frogs due to indigenous Amerindians' use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of their hunting darts.

Of the 175 dart frog species, only three are known to be used for tipping darts. One of these, the Golden Dart Frog Phyllobates terribilis is considered to be the most toxic land vertebrate in the world. It is thought to contain enough toxins to potentially kill up to 20 humans! Most other dart frogs, while colorful and toxic enough to discourage predation, are much less hazardous.

We have several species of dart frog here at the Zoo, including the Golden Dart Frog and stunning Blue Dart Frog Dendrobates tinctorius ‘azureus’. Our frogs are fed on a diet of fruit flies, baby crickets, woodlice and springtails, which are all bred here at the Zoo.

In the wild, dart frogs build up their toxins from the invertebrates they eat, such as ants and termites. This means that dart frogs raised without their natural food sources, like our frogs at the Zoo, do not contain significant levels of toxins and are harmless. Nevertheless, our Keepers always wear gloves when handling dart frogs, not only to protect their skin from any minor irritations that may occur, but to protect the animals delicate skin too!

Unlike many other frogs, dart frogs are most active during the day. You can see our dazzling dart frogs exploring their naturalistic enclosures in the Tropical Realm and Spirit of the Jaguar exhibits.

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Interesting facts

Where they live: Native to Central and South America

Habitat: Tropical and montane forests

Size: Up to 6cm

Threats: Habitat loss through deforestation due to agricultural development, logging and human settlement. Predation by introduced species. Illegal collection for the exotic pet trade. A deadly fungal disease called Chytridiomycosis

Species Information

Scientific name Phyllobates terribilis
Order Anura
Family Dendrobatidae
Genus Phyllobates
IUCN status Endangered
Roles in the zoo

In situ Conservation Ambassador

Habitat conservation: This is a species that we support through our habitat-focused conservation projects and programmes around the world.

Education

Interdependence: This species helps demonstrate that all living things, including humans, live in ecosystems and depend on other living things for their survival.

Husbandry Development and/or Skills Training: This is a species for which we’re developing particular husbandry methods to address an identified issue and/or helping to build staff capacity in specific husbandry or field conservation skills.

Visitor experience

Exhibit Enhancement: This species connects visitors with the geographic areas that they originate from and helps develop further understanding of the environmental issues facing the species in those regions.